We Will Remember
Dear Friend in Christ:
I pray you and your loved ones are well and having a good year so far. Springtime is almost here in Mobile, and we are looking forward to the explosion of colors that come with the blooming azaleas and dogwoods that are so abundant in our city. With Spring comes new life and new hope as the sunshine chases the gloom and chill of Winter away.
In this letter, I want to share a few personal testimonies and vignettes with you, hoping that these will be encouraging to you as you consider the season ahead. We receive strength for the future by pausing today to give thanks for what God has done in the past.
When David was facing great challenge, he stopped to remember God’s faithfulness, and his faith was renewed:
I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your works;
I muse on the work of Your hands.
I spread out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. Selah (Psalm 143:5-6)
“Selah” is an interesting Hebrew word, and scholars have long pondered its full meaning. Some suggest it means to pause, to reflect, to remember, and to praise. It is not included in the Psalms as an accident or an afterthought. It directs us to stop our activity and speech; to rest, breathe, and meditate on the faithfulness of God and glorify Him.
We sometimes rush through life and Scripture without pausing to give thanks to the One through Whom life and Scripture have come. And, too often, we forget or neglect the people through whom He has worked to bless and sustain us.
I remember one morning with a group of kindergarteners when I was sharing the Christmas story, sitting in a rocking chair, and the children were sitting on the floor around me on a rug. They seemed very happy and attentive, and I was glad things were going so well. I described the angels and shepherds and the scene in the stable, with Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. As I closed, a sweet little girl raised her hand to ask a question: “Pastor Stephen?” I smiled and said, “Yes, what is your question?” She replied, “Did you get some new shoes?” Well, as a matter of fact, I had. Which taught me another lesson: children notice EVERYTHING, not just your words!
This month, as I read through the cards and letters from the school children, I realized they were all college-age or older now. Many now have kids of their own. I was moved to tears by their sweet notes, and after all these years, I was encouraged that my work has not been in vain. Needless to say, I am keeping every one of those cards.
I also found some cards from my dear friends Ken and Deany Lowry, who are missionaries and evangelists based in Houston, Texas. They have served the Lord and His people for many decades.
I traveled with Ken to Russia in 1992, and later was part of Christ Covenant Church with them and their son Dan and daughter-in-law Kelly, and their children. Ken has always been so gracious to encourage me, pray for me, and inspire me in evangelism and compassion. The Lord has reminded me again of how much Ken and Deany have sown into so many people, and the tremendous eternal fruit of their lives.
The truth is, among the thousands of you reading this, there are so many who I count as dear friends who have blessed me and this ministry in countless ways. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I say, along with the Apostle Paul:“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:3-11).
We are preparing for our upcoming annual CSM Gatlinburg Leadership Conference, May 10-12. Our theme is “First Love,” inspired by the call of Christ in Revelation 2 to return to Him. Among our special guest speakers will be Bishop Joseph Garlington from Covenant Church of Pittsburgh. Bishop Garlington has spoken at many of our conferences in years past. In his most recent time of ministry at Recently, I had the joy of re-connecting with a dear brother who served me as my pastor for many of my young adult years. In 1981, Bill McLaughlin was the first man I asked to give me personal pastoral care, aside from my own Dad. I was not yet 18 and was already serving the Lord in ministry, still growing in my faith; I needed training and accountability.
Brother Bill was God’s gracious provision to me as a pastor, mentor, and friend. My life and ministry have been deeply blessed by his influence. Speaking with Bill again reminded me of God’s faithfulness, and of my need to continually remember what He has done, and to honor those through whom His provision has come. Talking with Bill has inspired me to reach out to some other people who have been a blessing to our family through the years. And, it seems that in recent months, the Lord has been setting up divine appointments with key people in my life and renewing fellowship. This is no accident.
I was delighted to see another longtime friend, John Stanko, at the recent gathering of the Association of Covenant Ministries. It had been much too long since seeing him. John was, at one time, my boss at work, and a wonderful mentor. He’s an accomplished author, speaker, coach, and missionary. I was thankful for the opportunity to express my gratitude to him for his investment in my life.
Spring is a good time to renew relationships, especially this year, as much of the world is slowly emerging from the isolation caused by the Covid pandemic. I’m really excited about renewing relationships. Are you? Zoom meetings, phone calls, emails, virtual church services, and social media can all be useful tools for connectivity, but there is no substitute for face-to-face, life-giving fellowship.
CARDS AND LETTERS
Spring is also a time of cleaning and sorting for many people. We’ve been going through some boxes of items, organizing, giving some things away, throwing some things away, and re-discovering some treasures along the way. I have always kept greeting cards and encouraging notes that friends and loved ones have given to me over the years.
Reading through these cards and notes this week reminded me again of so many dear friends and loved ones, and how during some of my most difficult struggles and darkest days, the Lord showed His kindness to me through their loving words.
Some of my favorite cards came from the children I was privileged to teach in morning Bible devotionals at Covenant Christian School. We would go through Scripture, line-by-line, and discuss what the stories mean. Over the years, their teachers asked the students to send me “thank you” cards, usually hand-made, on special occasions, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Sharing Scripture with children is a joy, an honor, and also a challenge. They approach God and the Bible differently than adults. You can never take for granted what they are processing, or what they will say in response. I always took special care with what I said, knowing how critical it was for me to be both theologically correct, and also age-appropriate.
Gatlinburg, he taught us the worship song, “We Will Remember” by Tommy Walker. “We will remember, we will remember We will remember the works of Your hands We will stop and give You praise For great is Thy faithfulness”
The song goes on to recount many of the ways that God has demonstrated His covenant love to us, in every storm and trial. I love songs like this and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” which remind us of the blessings we have received in Christ. Don’t forget to remember! Thanksgiving lifts our eyes off of our circumstances and limitations and onto the eternal God Who “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (see Ephesians 3:20).
“But wait,” some might say. “Didn’t the same Apostle Paul, in Philippians 3, tell us to forget the things that lie behind?” Yes, he did. We are to forget about pride in our past achievements or the pain of past disappointments and failures. We are called to forgive those who hurt us in the past. To put it another way, forget the smell of smoke, but don’t forget the One Who walked with you in the fire.
If I may, I want to encourage you to take some time now to remember. Selah. As you recall the faithfulness of God, give Him thanks, and remember to thank the people through whom He has worked in your life. Tell them. Be specific. Life is short. Don’t wait.
And, we do hope we can see you in Gatlinburg this year. For more information, and to register, please visit us at csmpublishing.org or call our office: (251) 633-7900. You can also “like” our Charles Simpson Ministries Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @CSMinPublishing. Don’t forget to check out our CSMPublishing YouTube Channel, which is full of free Bible teaching, music, and updates: https://www.youtube.com/user/CSMPublishing/videos
We sincerely appreciate your prayer, friendship, and support. Please continue to remember us in your giving this month and throughout 2022. As they have been for so many ministries, recent years have been tremendously challenging for us. We’re thankful for the way you have stood with us and look forward to all that God will do in months and years ahead!
Stephen Simpson President
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.